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Toyota models take 9 Safety Plus awards

US IIHS hands out Top Safety Pick awards, with 38 models rating PLUS

Published: December 8, 2016, 4:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:21 PM

2017 Toyota Corolla

The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has compiled its latest list of top safety pics and 82 vehicles have so far made the grade, with 38 of those awarded a “plus” rating.

The IIHS toughened up the criteria for its “plus” ratings for 2016, taking into account new headlight evaluations to reflect an even higher degree of safety. Last year, vehicles had to get advanced or superior ratings in automatic braking (where the vehicle brakes itself in an impending front collision if the driver doesn’t take action).

“The field of contenders is smaller this year because so few vehicles have headlights that do their job well, but it’s not as small as we expected when we decided to raise the bar for the awards,” says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “Manufacturers are focusing on improving this basic safety equipment, and we’re confident the winners’ list will grow as the year progresses.”

The base requirement is a good rating in small overlap front collisions, moderate overlap front, side impacts, roof strength (for safety in rollovers), and head restraints.

Toyota lead all manufacturers, receiving nine 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK PLUS awards — Camry, Corolla, Prius, Prius V and Rav4, as well as Lexus ES 350, NX, RC and RX — followed by Honda with five (Accord, Pilot, Ridgeline, and Acura MDX and RDX), and Hyundai with four (Elantra, Santa Fe, and Genesis G80 and G90).

Several manufacturers took home three awards — Mazda (Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-3), Nissan (Altima, Maxima and Rogue), Subaru (Forester, Legacy and Outback) and Volvo (S60, V60 and XC60) — with a couple grabbing two — Audi (A4 and Q5) and GM (Buick Envision and Chevrolet Volt). Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Chrysler Pacifica), Mercedes-Benz (GLE), Mitsubishi (Outlander) and Volkswagen (Jetta) brought home single honours.

Getting back to the headlight ratings, seven models had their headlights rated good — Volt, Ridgeline, Elantra, Santa Fe, Legacy, Prius V, and XC60. The test measures how far light is projected both in low and high-beam modes, on straights and in curves, and the glare emitted to oncoming drivers. Extra credit is given for automatic high-beams, where software switches between low and high-beams as oncoming traffic approaches or is approached.

Of note is that several manufacturers upgraded their models’ lights and received the PLUS rating as a result. Subaru Forester went from poor to acceptable, Mitsubishi Outlander went from marginal to acceptable, and the Toyota Prius went from poor to acceptable. Good and acceptable are the only headlight ratings that can give models the “plus” rating.

Last year’s feature (autobrake) was available on more models this year, with 21 of the 38 TOP SAFETY PICK PLUS recipients having the feature as standard equipment. Manufacturers have committed to making the safety feature standard on all new vehicles by 2022.

The other interesting development is that manufacturers are bundling safety equipment but not always to the benefit of the model.

For example, says IIHS, the Infiniti Q70 and Hyundai Tucson just missed out on PLUS awards because the headlights packaged with their autobrake features were rated below the headlight standard (even though headlights on other models were rated acceptable, which would have given them the PLUS, the ones bundled with their autobrakes were rated marginal on the Q70 and poor on Tucson).

The IIHS, continuously rates and awards TOP SAFETY PICKS and TOP SAFETY PICKS PLUS, so it expects more vehicles will make the top grade as manufacturers fine-tune their safety suites. The awards were inaugurated in 2006, and in 2013, the PLUS accolade was added to recognize vehicles that went beyond the standard safety initiatives.